A group of BYU students and various social work professionals lambasted the university's termination of a bachelor's degree program for social work, calling the decision "stupidity," "a shot in the dark," and made with "a hidden agenda in mind."

Mark Gilchrist, a first-year graduate student, headed the press conference and represented a cluster of protesting students who spoke to the media at Provo's Gallery Building at 300 W. 110 South.

"I really feel this is an injustice," said Lynn Whitaker, an adjunct instructor at BYU. She also said the decision was "stupidity."

Tammy Black, who works on the university's board advisory council for social work, complained that David Magleby, dean of BYU's School of Family Home and Social Sciences, did not counsel with the advisory board before making the decision to abolish the bachelor's program.

"There was a hidden agenda in mind," she said. "It was not made with sound facts in mind."

Magleby responded later in a phone interview, calling the group misinformed. He said they are spreading misinformation every time they hold their protest-style events.

Magleby says he shut the program down because not enough qualified candidates were identified to teach the curriculum in the future.

"Every dean at BYU has to be looking four and five years (ahead) at a pool of potential candidates," he said. "We could only find three."

Gilchrist opened the meeting and said his research, which he admitted was limited by time and resources, came up with 11 potential candidates that may come teach at BYU.

"That's news to me," said Magleby. "So, why haven't they given that list to the director? I'm highly doubtful it's true."

Doug Gale, executive director at Scenic View, a post-education facility for the disabled and a member of BYU's board advisory council, weighed in heavily at the conference and did not hold back in criticizing Magleby's decision to eliminate the program.

"I don't know where (Magleby) is getting his data," he said. "But it makes no sense. It's like he stood in front of a dartboard and took a shot in the dark."

Magleby said the group's protests were in vain.

"The University of Michigan, which has an outstanding (social work) program and one we like to model after," doesn't offer that degree, Magleby said, adding that 27 percent of schools across the nation lack the program.

Magleby said students who want to get a master's in social work can get a bachelor's degree in "anything" before applying. Gilchrist and his group are planning an on-campus protest in January.

"We might wear gags around campus until they really listen to us," he said.

"Our goal is to get national attention."

E-mail: [email protected]